No Olympics Cards on Shelves This Time
by Paul Angilly
August 24, 2004
For about two weeks out of every four years, the Summer Olympic Games capture the sporting
worldís attention. But unlike in past years, it appears that there will be no major trading
card sets issued to commemorate the 2004 Athens Games.
There are a few assorted singles available, mostly from Sports Illustrated for Kids magazine or
other hobby periodicals that feature trading cards inside. Thereís also a 25-card set of the USA
softball team, available through USA Softball and the Amateur Softball Association (ASA). An ice
cream company in Greece is even offering lenticular cards featuring the 2004 Athens mascot. But the
major U.S. trading card makers have not yet announced any plans for an Olympics set this year.
Thatís too bad, since recent eBay sales would indicate a strong demand for a set featuring this yearís
USA Olympians. For instance: $22.50 for a Sports Illustrated for Kids card of Courtney Kupets (USA
gymnast), $154.39 for an autographed Jennie Finch (USA softball) 2004 Playoff Absolute "Fans of
the Game" card, $10.50 for a Rookie Review magazine card of USA swimmer Michael Phelps and $5
for a Rookie Review card of swimmer Natalie Coughlin.
Itís also too bad because trading cards depicting Olympic athletes have been around in one form or
another almost since the modern games began. Heck, even the best of the ancient Olympians were honored
by having their images captured in paintings or sculpture.
Eight years before the modern Olympics began in 1896, card sets from tobacco companies Allen & Ginter,
Goodwin and Kimballís produced multi-sport sets that included athletes from future Olympic sports such
as boxing, bicycling, lawn tennis, wrestling and rowing.
Many other multi-sport sets that included some well-known Olympic athletes were produced throughout the
early part of the 20th century, but perhaps the most notable of those was the 1933 Sport Kings set from
the Goudey Gum Company, which also made its first baseball card set that same year. In addition to many
baseball, football and hockey players, the Sport Kings set included cards for cyclists, swimmers, wrestlers,
tennis players, boxers, golfers and track stars.
Fast forwarding a bit, the 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles brought a few sets carrying a Finder
Image International copyright, which were produced by Topps and distributed in various ways.
The largest of those sets included 99 cards of past Olympic greats from all countries, such as Jim Thorpe,
Babe Didrikson, Jesse Owens, Bruce Jenner, Jerry West and Cassius Clay. The cards were available in packs
or as a boxed factory set.
A smaller 44-card version of the set, with a slightly different design but the same photos on the front and
same write-ups on the back, was issued as a boxed set by M&Mís candies. Yet another version, this one a
24-card set, was issued as panels of three cards each, printed on boxes of Hostess snack cakes. The Hostess
version also has a slightly different design but uses the same photos and write-ups.
Before the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, Impel Marketing (which later became part of Skybox, which
is now part of the Fleer Company) made a 90-card set saluting the members of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
In addition to many of the same top names that appeared in the 1983 Topps-produced sets, were cards of Mary
Lou Retton, Greg Louganis and the 1964 U.S. Olympic basketball team.
The next year, Impel produced a 110-card set of "1992 U.S. Olympic Hopefuls." That set remains the
only major Olympics set made in the USA to feature current Olympians exclusively, rather than top former
Among the highlights are cards of the U.S. Olympic baseball team (a team photo that includes Jason Giambi,
among others), individual cards and a team photo of the first 10 members named to the inaugural "Dream
Team" basketball squad, womenís basketball players such as Teresa Edwards, boxers including Oscar de
la Hoya, cyclists including Lance Armstrong, gymnasts including Shannon Miller, swimmers including Matt
Biondi and track stars including Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
A company called Collect-A-Card made a 120-card set (sold in packs) detailing the history of the Olympics. A
few top former Olympians were pictured on their own cards, but most of the cards pictured either generic scenes
or the fronts of official programs and posters.
Upper Deck made a set that year that featured both past and current Olympians. The 135-card base set included
90 "U.S. Olympic Moments," (including, among the usual suspects, a card of Gen. George Patton
competing in the modern pentathlon), 30 "Future Champions" (including a card of Mia Hamm) and 15
"Passing the Torch" cards (pairing a former and current Olympian, such as Peggy Fleming with
Being a modern card set, the Upper Deck set had plenty of nice inserts. A 20-card "Magical Images"
set highlights the fantastic images of famed Sports Illustrated photographer Walter Iooss; a 10-card "Reflections of Gold" set highlights selected past gold medal winners; and a 5-card "Reign of
Gold" set features holographic images of multiple gold medal winners.
Most of the Reflections of Gold cards were also available autographed by sending back randomly-inserted
redemption cards. Included, among others, are an extremely rare card of Michael Jordan (believed to be 25
or fewer autographed copies in existence), plus Evander Holyfield and Bruce Jenner.
About the author
Paul Angilly is a sports reporter for The Bristol Press in Connecticut, and
has been collecting sports cards and memorabilia for 30 years. He is not a
dealer, nor does he make a profit from buying and selling cards. His weekly
sports card and memorabilia collecting column appears each week in The
Bristol Press and several other
daily newspapers in
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